Most of our lives nowadays are totally online. The intense growth of social media has established a completely new way of life compared to those a few decades ago. It has for many become a necessary part of their everyday lives. Whether that be the photos we share on Instagram or the Snapchats we post to our stories, everyone is involved in everyone’s lives. Impact’s Evie Seal discusses the pros and cons of a life lived online.
Although the exposure and connectedness can have its pros, the constant need to use social media in order to satisfy our addiction is proving to be damaging to our health. Children are being exposed to the use of social media younger and younger as the years go on, so the importance of safeguarding and protection is as important as ever. Therefore we have to ask ourselves, is social media damaging to our health?
It is an essential part of socialisation nowadays
Although social media can have detrimental impacts on our social well being, it does have some advantages.
Firstly, it is an essential part of socialisation nowadays. This can be seen in the cases of communicating with family and friends who may live abroad or at a distance from you; it connects you with people you may have never met in your day-to-day life and also helps build a sense of community. Say you are starting your first year at University and you are living away from campus so may feel socially isolated. Social media is a great way to connect with people who may be on your course or part of other societies you are interested in.
Another upside to social media is that it can help promote social change. Campaigns can be shared and spread globally, which can help bring awareness and educate many.
People can hide behind screens in order to be hateful to others
Your internal monologue while scrolling through your social media feed can often affect your mental health and wellbeing.
It can be a place for cyberbullying. People can hide behind screens in order to be hateful to others without being caught. It can facilitate behaviour that is even harder to tolerate if it’s on apps such as Snapchat where the content disappears. Content and posts can be deleted, leaving victims vulnerable and unable to provide information about hateful attacks. This can be something that is very hard to deal with, especially on young children with developing minds.
“Instagram worsened body image issues for one in three teenage girls”
Social media deals in unrealistic beauty standards through the use of filters and face-tune. When high profile celebrities and influencers have body ‘enhancing’ surgery or use filters to change bodily features, it creates an unattainable and unrealistic beauty standard that very few maintain. Slides seen by The Wall Street Journal suggest that internal Facebook research “found that Instagram worsened body image issues for one in three teenage girls, and all teenage users of the app linked it to experiences of anxiety and depression“, says Columbia Public Health.
The constant comparison between you and others may cause a negative self-reflection and lead people to seek validation. This can lead to anxieties and depression or eating disorders. Celebrities advertising certain weight loss products or dietary tablets encourages this desire for young women and girls to look like the edited images they see on their feeds. Social media is a constant up and down
This cyclical negativity is a constant for many
The gratification of receiving likes and comments on your post can be instantly brought down by your loss of followers or precieving someone else as looking better in an outfit than you. This cyclical negativity is a constant for many, which is fuelling mental health issues in teenagers and adults.
Although social media has many benefits, it has to be acknowledged that it has had a negative impact on the mental health of teenagers and adults. A study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that “For girls, a high level of social media or television use in early adolescence followed by a marked increase over time was most predictive of suicide risk in emerging adulthood.”
The impact social media is having on all young people and teenagers seems to be a growing concern yet when will these big social media giants step in and make change?
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